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Jobless Gyanendra turns to gambling

The 60-year-old plays games like poker and blackjack on the Net till almost 3 o'clock in the morning.
None | By Indo-Asian News Service, Kathmandu
UPDATED ON JUL 26, 2006 02:45 PM IST

After losing his grip on the government and the army and living with the threat of losing his crown, Nepal's King Gyanendra has turned to a new avenue for solace - online gambling, a report said.

The 60-year-old monarch, whose gamble to follow in the footsteps of his father and revive the era of all-powerful kings crashed after a nationwide revolt, is now trying his luck at poker and blackjack on the Internet, the Jana Aastha weekly reported on Wednesday.

Suffering from depression and fluctuating blood pressure after he was forced to hand over power to a multi-party government and endure the curtailing of his purse and privileges by parliament, the headstrong king is also haunted by insomnia that is keeping him up till late at night, the weekly said.

To take his mind off the political developments in the country that threaten to abolish monarchy by holding an election in less than a year, the king is gaming online in the Narayanhiti royal palace.

Recently, he has been playing online poker and blackjack till almost three o'clock in the morning, the weekly reported.

The king is using his international credit cards for the gambling, entering their details online, a move most Internet savvy credit card users avoid to prevent online fraud.

However, though the businessman king engineered a coup with perfect precision last year to seize power, his subsequent actions showed a lack of astuteness and business sense.

During his 15-month direct rule, he was swayed by royalist ministers, relatives and advisers, authorising enterprises that cost the state millions of rupees.

They included shutting down services of the state-owned telecom company to help his son-in-law's private telephone firm make a quick profit and trying to borrow money from a shady organisation in a scheme that would have ripped off the apex bank in the country, Nepal Rastra Bank, for billions.

Even now, the king's largesse to a royal relative, running over NRS 1 crore, ostensibly to fund her medical treatment in the UK and Thailand, is under scrutiny in parliament.

The king's late-night forays into online casinos is proving costly for his retainers, the weekly said.

Palace employees have to stay up as long as the playing monarch does to bring him coffee and water, it reported. There are about 900 employees in the royal household.

However, they would have a reprieve this week as the king plans to go to another palace in Nagarjuna, a forest reserve on the outskirts of Kathmandu valley, Thursday to spend some time there, the report said.

It would be the first time the king would be leaving the palace since April, when street protests forced him to reinstate parliament after nearly four years and step down as head of the government.

The Nagarjuna trip would to some extent avoid a mortifying situation as a Chinese delegation arrives in Kathmandu on Thursday.

Chinese vice foreign minister Wu Tawei is leading a 10-member team on a three-day visit to discuss with Nepal's new government "ways to assist in the recent political transformation".

The visit signifies China's complete desertion of the king, who last year praised Beijing as Nepal's "all-weather friend" for supporting the royal coup and stepping up arms sale to the Nepal army at a time the international community suspended military assistance.

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